Take the Fight Out of Food – Is All Food Good?

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Keeping a journal for my Picky Eater hasn’t proved particularly revealing. My efforts to just leave her alone did lead to me recording bites of assorted food items, which she previously would have refused all together, but the journal simply confirmed what I feared, even her weekly diet lacks balance.

Reviewing the book’s Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children (ages 2-6), however, did help lower my expectations. My serving sizes had been bigger than recommended so when my child was filling up before she’d cleared her plate there was no need for me to nag her to eat more. And in light of the research I’m doing in preparation for a Richmond Family Magazine article on childhood obesity, portion sizes is a big issue. While admittedly she didn’t eat many vegetables this week, keeping the servings small meant she was more likely to at least sample everything on her plate.

As Lily is eager to leave her baby car seat behind and switch to a booster, I took this opportunity to talk to her about nutrition, as author Donna Fish suggested. I used words like protein, vitamins, and calcium, explaining that these things will help her body grow to be the required 40 pounds for the booster seat. Ultimately, she didn’t care. “You know, I decided I like my car seat.”

In an effort to have her take responsibility for her body, I tried saying things like Fish suggests, “Hmm, I know you don’t want the broccoli, and you really want dessert, but what do you think you need to eat to do good things for your body? Dessert is fun and tastes terrific, but what can you eat that will help you run around during playtime at school tomorrow?”

Blueberries. Mangoes. Dried apricots. Lily will eat any fruit I put in front of her. But a girl can’t live on fruit alone, right? Well, Take the Fight Out of Food argues “all food is good.” Fish even goes so far as to suggest “quick kid-friendly options” like frozen pizza, hot dogs, cheese sandwiches, and quesadillas. I don’t know about you, but these are not the kinds of foods I think of when I think good nutrition, especially when you consider the fact that 30% of the children in America are overweight or obese.

Still, I think Fish’s second step toward eating for life – rebooting the connection between belly and head – is a good one. I ended up going “old school” half-way through the week, eliminating all but one snack, after reading on msnbc.com that 27% of calories consumed by children are outside of meals. According to Carmen Piernas and Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina, “Children snack so often that they are ‘moving toward constant eating.’” Or in my youngest daughter’s case, snacking enough to never be hungry at mealtime.

But, I’ve discovered, Lily’s fruit obsession may ultimately serve her well. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Your Kids Right, “The amount of fruit you eat during the first ten years of your life has a dramatic effect on all adult cancers because when you are young your cells are multiplying and dividing, making them more susceptible to a low nutrient diet or the effects of saturated fat and other cancer influences.”

Ultimately, Take the Fight Out of Food hasn’t resolve our eating problems. While I might be a little more patient at the dinner table, I’m just as conflicted as ever. If I let my kids eat what they want in an effort to curtail the likelihood of emotional eating in later years, am I paving the way for a plethora of health issues? My gut’s telling me while learning moderation is important it’s wrong to teach my kids that “all food is good,” as the author suggests. In this age of partially hydragenated oil, high frutose corn syrup, and rbST growth hormones, all foods are not created equal. While I’m no expert in physical and mental health, I’ve got to go with my gut on this one and continue believeing we are what we eat. What do you think?